Courtesy of Hollywood Reporter
In the late 1950s, he started his recording career with jazz-singer Bobby Doyle, and joined the folk ensemble the New Christy Minstrels in 1961, playing double bass and bass guitar as well as singing. In 1967, he and several members of the New Christy Minstrels left to found the group the First Edition, with whom he scored his first major hit, “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)”, a psychedelic rock song which peaked at number five on the Billboard charts. As Rogers took an increased leadership role in the First Edition, and following the success of 1969’s “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town”, the band gradually changed styles to a more country feel. The band broke up in 1975–1976, and Kenny Rogers embarked on a long and successful solo career, which included several successful collaborations, including duets with singers Dolly Parton and Sheena Easton, and a songwriting partnership with Lionel Richie.
His signature song is 1978’s “The Gambler”, a cross-over hit that won him a Grammy award in 1980 and was selected in 2018 for preservation in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress. He would develop the Gambler persona into a character for a successful series of television films starting with 1980’s Emmy-nominated Kenny Rogers as The Gambler.
Though he has been most successful with country audiences, Rogers has charted more than 120 hit singles across various music genres, topped the country and pop album charts for more than 200 individual weeks in the United States alone, and has sold over 100 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling music artists of all time.On September 25, 2015, Rogers announced on NBC’s Today Show that he was retiring from show business after a final tour to spend more time with his wife and twin sons.
Two of his albums, The Gambler and Kenny, are featured in the About.com poll of “The 200 Most Influential Country Albums Ever”.He was voted the “Favorite Singer of All Time” in a 1986 joint poll by readers of both USA Today and People.He has received numerous awards such as the AMAs, Grammys, ACMs and CMAs, as well as a lifetime achievement award for a career spanning six decades in 2003.
Later success includes the 2006 album release, Water & Bridges, an across the board hit, that hit the Top 5 in the Billboard Country Albums sales charts, also charting in the Top 15 of the Billboard 200. The first single from the album, “I Can’t Unlove You”, was also a sizable chart hit. Remaining a popular entertainer around the world, he continued to tour regularly until his retirement in 2017.
He has acted in a variety of movies and television shows, most notably the title roles in Kenny Rogers as The Gambler and the MacShayne series for The NBC Mystery Movie, and the 1982 feature film Six Pack.
He was a co-founder of the restaurant chain Kenny Rogers Roasters in collaboration with former Kentucky Fried Chicken CEO John Y. Brown Jr.
Rogers “passed away peacefully at home from natural causes under the care of hospice and surrounded by his family,” a representative for the singer said in a statement. Due to the national COVID-19 emergency, the family is planning a small private service at this time with a public memorial planned for a later date.